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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings left with no choice but to kick Daniel Carlson to the curb

By Judd Zulgad

GREEN BAY, WIS. — The warning signs about employing a rookie kicker where everywhere and yet the Vikings ignored them.

There was the failure of Blair Walsh, the kicker they drafted out of Georgia in 2012, whose brutal miss cost them a playoff win; there were Carlson’s two 42-yard misses against Seattle in the Vikings’ third preseason game; and there was the knowledge that throwing a young kicker into the pressure cooker of being on a team with Super Bowl aspirations might not be wise.

Yet, the Vikings felt they knew better than everyone else and general manager Rick Spielman traded back into the fifth round last April to select Daniel Carlson out of Auburn. Veteran Kai Forbath was kept around into training camp but that was simply for show and the veteran eventually was jettisoned. All because the Vikings knew better than anyone.

On Sunday that hubris bit them right in the behind.

Carlson’s miss on a 35-yard attempt as time expired in overtime cost the Vikings a chance to complete an improbable comeback against Green Bay and instead left Minnesota with a 29-29 tie at Lambeau Field. Instead of being atop the NFC North with a 2-0 record, the Vikings and Packers are both 1-0-1.

Carlson’s failure to hit that field goal completed a game in which he missed three attempts all wide right. He also missed from 48 yards in the second quarter — that ball was so far right it looked like it might be headed to Madison — and from 49 yards at the conclusion of the Vikings’ first drive in overtime.

That wouldn’t have given Minnesota the victory — the Packers would have gotten the ball back to try to tie with a field goal or win with a touchdown — but Minnesota would have won when Green Bay’s ensuing drive stalled at the Vikings’ 47-yard line.

In the aftermath of the tie, Vikings players attempted to do their best to support Carlson and coach Mike Zimmer did his best not to criticize the kicker. Carlson, to his credit, faced the media afterward and answered every question.

“It feels terrible,” he said of his nightmare day in Wisconsin. “Obviously, I let my team down. Credit to them, they fought back time and time again, gave me opportunities just to execute at the end of the day, so it’s disappointing for me just personally. That the team fought so hard and stuff. At least we came up with a tie but we expect to win that and I expect to make those kicks to win the game for the team.”

Zimmer, asked about Carlson’s job security, said, “I don’t know, it’s too early,” adding that he had barely talked to Spielman about what had happened.

That conversation likely took place shortly after Zimmer’s press conference and if the decision to move on from Carlson wasn’t made at that point something is very wrong.

The Vikings spent $84 million over three years on Kirk Cousins and on Sunday he went 35 of 48 for 425 yards with four touchdowns and an interception as Minnesota scored 22 fourth-quarter points in a wild comeback. Cousins was brought here as the final piece of an offense that is expected to take the Vikings deep in the NFC playoffs and, ideally, to the Super Bowl.

Zimmer has built a defense that had its issues on Sunday but, again, is built with one goal in mind. Getting to the Super Bowl.

The last thing the Vikings can afford to do is be patient with a 23-year-old kicker who has a big leg and some day might be really good. The Vikings have been around since 1961, they have made it to four Super Bowls, but none since 1977. This is a franchise and a fan base that has had enough heartache. No one should be asked to exercise any patience with key positions and they certainly shouldn’t have to suffer through watching a kicker who has little idea where the ball is headed.

This isn’t fair to the players, Zimmer or anyone else who cares about this team. The Vikings need to look at bringing back Kai Forbath or signing former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey. What they can’t do is continue on with Carlson.

Carlson had the worst day of anyone on the Vikings’ special teams but he wasn’t the only one who struggled. Matt Wile, who was signed after Ryan Quigley was cut at the end of training camp, had his first punt of the day blocked and the Packers recovered it for a touchdown.

It’s tough to get a punt blocked for a touchdown, it’s tough to turn guys loose on the wheel routes that were simple things,” Zimmer said when asked about Carlson’s day. “We lined it up exactly where they told me they wanted it to kick the field goal and we missed.”

The Vikings made many mistakes on Sunday and many of them can be corrected. But the mistake of drafting Carlson won’t be fixed until a new kicker is brought in. This doesn’t mean Carlson’s NFL career is over, but his time in Minnesota needs to be.

“Obviously, this is my first time in this situation so I don’t know,” Carlson said when asked about his job security. “It is what it is and I sure hope (I’m not cut) because I want to be able to prove to my teammates and these guys here that I can help them. We have a long season ahead and hopefully lots of big wins and big kicks (are) in my future. I just want to stick around here and help the team as long as I can.”

That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s no longer realistic.

The post Zulgad: Vikings left with no choice but to kick Daniel Carlson to the curb appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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